Roofs aren’t merely decorative features; they also protect homes and buildings from the elements. Depending on the materials and colors used, roofs can keep a structure warm in the winter or cool in the summer. The trick is knowing which materials are ideal for which climates.
For regions that edge toward the warmer side of the scale, it’s best to choose both colors and materials that reflect the sun’s rays, while staying away from those that absorb and retain heat.
- Light-Colored Slate Tile
Slate tiles have been a popular choice in Europe and America for centuries, and it’s no wonder; they’re classy, durable, and low-maintenance.
Slate roofs are well-known for their beauty and historic significance, but they also excel at cooling homes down. Light-colored slate tiles, in particular, do a stellar job of reflecting heat away from a building.
On the downside, slate can be heavy and pricy. Slate roofing installation can also present some difficulties. For those who don’t mind the extra cost and hassle, it’s a cool, long-lasting, and aesthetically pleasing option.
Some builders and manufacturers are now coating roofs with special materials and sprays that reflect heat. Some of the reflective coatings include:
- Elastomeric sealants
- Foam sprays
- Ceramic-based paints
- Recycled waste cooking oil
- Radiant Barriers
Instead of adding a layer to the top of the roof, it’s also possible to install a cooling barrier between the roof and the attic or crawl space.
Made of reflective material such as aluminum, radiant barriers act as buffers by preventing heat from reaching the inside of the house.
- Terra Cotta and Clay
For centuries, terra cotta and clay have been the material of choice in warmer climates, from Spain to the American southwest. Charming to look at, they’re also ideally suited to withstand the wear and tear of the brutal sun.
It’s not only the kiln-baked clay or the traditionally light color that keeps the heat at bay; it’s also the shape of the tiles. The interlocking arches of half-barrel tiles create pockets of space through which hot air and water circulate, and that prevents heat from building up.
- White Metal Roofing
Metal is sturdy and amazingly weather-resistant. Although it’s often the go-to material for those facing heavy snows and hailstorms, a light-colored metal can also be a be an ally against the harsh sun. Metal doesn’t retain heat very well, which means it cools faster at night.
The initial cost may be a bit hefty, but the long-term savings—in the form of low metal roof maintenance costs, great energy saving properties, and less need for replacement—more than make up for the high price tag.
- Light-Colored Concrete Tile
While metal cools down quickly, concrete heats up slowly. Either way, it’s a victory against the heat. Combined with the reflective properties of a light color, a concrete roof can provide plenty of protection against the merciless sun.
Since concrete tends to be on the cheaper side, it’s the perfect low-cost alternative to more historic materials.
Technology has come a long way since the days of terra cotta roofs. Although traditional materials can reflect heat back into the atmosphere, solar roofs can capture that heat and store it for use as an alternative energy source.
While those who live in perpetually cloudy regions might be hard-pressed to take advantage of the benefits, it’s perfect for those who live in sunshiny climes.
- Rubberized Coatings
Rubber might not seem like the ideal material for keeping heat away, but rubberized coatings are well-known as a cooling technology.
Although not actually made of rubber, these rubber-like membranes and thermoplastic roofing options are robust and weather-resistant. Perfectly designed to withstand the wear and tear of harsh climates, they often come in white colors that reflect heat away from the interior of a home or building.
- Barrel Tiles
The barrel tile borrows the shape of the terra cotta tile, thereby allowing air to circulate underneath the S-shape. Made of more economical materials, such as concrete, and topped with a white coating that reflects heat, barrel tiles offer a splendid low-cost alternative for maintaining lower temperatures in hotter climates.
- Green Roofs
Green roofs may be the most radical option for keeping buildings cool, but they represent the cutting-edge of environmentally friendly alternatives.
Placing soil and vegetation above a waterproof membrane creates a naturally cool layer, and reduces the temperatures of both the roof and the surrounding air (in fact, green roofs are typically cooler than the surrounding air).1
Unfortunately, the costs of installation are often prohibitively high, while the weight of the soil can add a great deal of stress to a building’s structure.
The 10 Best Roofing Materials for Warmer Climates